A quick rundown of the most popular articles from April 18th to April 23rd, 2021.
As a Medium writer, I spend a lot of time tracking what I do. When the Trending on Medium section debuted several months ago, I tried finding a site that actively archived this information. The best I found was the Internet Archive, but I could not locate an archived page for every day (note — if you know of an alternative, please let me know).
And so, I started cataloging the information myself. Below is the information I gathered from Sunday, April 18 to Friday, April 23, 2021. It is only one week of data (so take any of these conclusions with a grain of salt), but I hope to do more of these breakdowns in the future.
What Are People Writing?
Unsurprisingly, there is a heavy emphasis on the Tech sector. When you add up the categories Programming, Tech, Design, Cryptocurrency, Startup, and Investing (the latter of which is all about the Tech space), we are talking about 50.1% of all articles written.
This confirms what people have known for a while — that Medium is a heavily tech-oriented platform. This week's most Trending article was an announcement for Node.js 16, which took the number one spot for three days straight.
Overall, there appear to be many announcements on Medium right now: the Philadelphia Phillies announced Baseball player Bohm’s new foundation, Obama gave a statement about Derek Chauvin’s conviction, and again, the node.js 16 announcement. Companies and political figures are using Medium as their de-facto platform for giving statements to the public.
This doesn’t mean that non-Tech content never makes it in the Trending section, but it’s definitely harder. The only Racial Justice article I saw this week that wasn’t from a former President was an article pointing out how Racial Justice articles were not trending in the wake of the Derek Chauvin conviction.
Who are these writers?
The bad news for unestablished Medium writers is that the median number of followers these writers had was 3,700. That does not bode well for people just starting in this game. The smaller writers either published under a major publication, wrote in the Tech space, or belonged to a larger organization trying to astroturf a position — like this article about Open Data Ecosystems by Venture Capitalist Casber Wang.
Looking at the way Medium works right now, I would highly recommend new writers prioritize follower count over everything else. It might be tempting to switch up your writing to more popular fields like programming, but you could do that and still not have that much success. Quality and type of content do not seem to matter as much as followers.
Where are they publishing?
Many trending writers are submitting under publications, but a sizeable minority are not — mainly because they have a big enough following for it not to matter. Many of the people who used publications did so under personal ones (e.g., 500ish, Team Human, Dodger Inside, Sapphire Ventures, and Beyond the Bell), which means that their personal brand was the overriding element here, not the publication itself.
The only time publications seemed to matter — and granted, this is a small sample size — was with smaller writers who have under 3,000 followers. If this is you, I would definitely recommend continuing to take advantage of the built-in audiences publications provide.
None of this information is shocking. Medium is a Tech company that seems to prioritize Tech-related articles. The people who are Trending the most fit that niche, and usually they have high follower counts.
My personal recommendation would be to work on that over content production itself. Try to push out articles consistently, but don’t make it the sole focus. If you want to trend (and it's fine either way), follower count sadly appears to be key.